Don’t Breathe 2 is an unpredictable sequel that fails to justify why it was necessary to be made. The story of home invaders biting off more than they could handle was a surprise hit in 2016. Its conclusion left room for a potential follow-up, but Don’t Breathe 2 isn’t the continuation many fans of the original would have hoped for. Held back by its questionable script, Don’t Breathe 2 is a disappointing sequel to one of the best home invasion films of the last decade.
Norman Nordstrom, the blind man featured in both films, returns for more twisted justice. He isn’t catching up with Rocky though, this time Norman has secured the daughter he desperately wanted again. In the original, three teens break into Norman’s home and discover that he had taken a woman hostage in order for her to forcefully give him another child. His plans were ruined, but now he has achieved his goal. Directed and co-written by Rodo Sayagues, the film stars Stephen Lang, Bobby Schofield, Christian Zagia, Brendan Sexton III, Steffan Rhodri, and Madelyn Grace. Don’t Breathe 2 follows Norman (Lang), who has saved a young girl named Phoenix (Grace) from a house and raised her as his own. One night, a group of gunmen break into their house and take Phoenix, which forces Norman to tap into his military background to save his “daughter”.
Fede Alvarez helmed the previous installment and returns to co-write the screenplay for Don’t Breathe 2. The film suffers from poor dialogue, some of which could spark unintentional laughter from audiences. It doesn’t attempt to address the issues left by the ending of Don’t Breathe, such as Norman not being in prison for his crimes. Along with that, Norman was set up as a sympathetic war veteran acting in self-defense, but then it’s revealed that he has forced a woman to bear his child. His actions in the original film suggest he found pleasure in harming Rocky and her friends. This prior knowledge makes it difficult to consider Norman likable as a character to follow. Don’t Breathe 2 establishes that he has sheltered Phoenix from a proper childhood out of heartbreak and selfishness. He’s lied to her, but she is innocent in all of this, so Phoenix is the character audiences can at least grow attached to.
Sayagues and Alvarez have put together a screenplay of so many unlikeable characters. At one point, after Phoenix is abducted it seems like her kidnappers will be the heroes of this story, but there are no heroes in Don’t Breathe 2. The previous film didn’t provide overly sympathetic characters in the teen robbers, but certain scenes were present to help the audience understand their difficult life situations. These gunmen, don’t have sympathetic backstories, it just grows into more unlikeable traits. Redemption arcs are fine to explore, but Don’t Breathe 2 depicts Norman’s in a less than acceptable manner. The life he’s created for Phoenix demonstrates that he’s only gotten worse, and still hasn’t come to terms with being a monster. However, by the end of the film, he has made a difference in her life, but it’s up to audiences to decide if that makes him redeemed now.
Don’t Breathe 2 is riddled with foreshadowing, making this screenplay decent on some level. Sayagues captures the tension, just not on the same level as the original. The tracking shots during the initial break-in to Norman’s house will keep viewers anxious and on the edge. Paced rather quickly, Don’t Breathe 2 is a fun watch for its technical strengths and gory action sequences. Lang impresses once again as this battered war veteran who isn’t to be taken lightly just because he can’t see. Norman is unlikeable, but Lang captures the obvious inner turmoil within Norman quite well through his facial expressions. Grace’s portrayal of Phoenix is the heart of Don’t Breathe 2, she embodies the childlike innocence perfectly for audiences to want to see her get away from Norman and the gunmen he saves her from. Roque Banos’s score keeps your heart racing and adds extra stress during the near-death moments for Phoenix.
Don’t Breathe 2 has no reason to exist, despite talks that this was a good idea for a sequel to the original film. Perhaps that idea was scrapped last minute and fans have to accept this mess instead. Not nearly as neat as its predecessor, Don’t Breathe 2 should be the end of this series if this type of narrative is what’s considered worthy for a sequel that could have been much better.